Olde English Trifle

Olde English Trifle

Serves 6 to 8

Sometimes called the “tipsy cake,” traditional trifles are usually loaded with booze! Sherry is most common, but often fruit-flavored liqueurs are used to complement the fruit that is used in the layering of cake, custard and whipped cream. Alcohol is applied using a method known as “punching”: drizzling or lightly dabbing with a pastry brush to moisten the cake. In this alcohol-free recipe we’ll use a piquant syrup, derived from the raspberries themselves, to “punch.” And to add extra intrigue in lieu of alcohol, the custard is flavored with a hint of bay leaf and lemon.

A trifle dish is a straight-sided glass dessert bowl set on a pedestal. It is surprisingly inexpensive to buy and is generally 8 inches wide and tall, holding between 3 and 4 quarts by volume. Punch bowls or other types of tapered glass bowls will also work well; one with a 9- to 10-inch diameter is a good choice, as long as you are able to see the beautiful layering of this dessert from all sides.

Raspberries are the classic fruit of choice and frozen ones are fine for the layering, but invest in a small carton of fresh raspberries to decorate the top. Since the custard requires a bit of work, cut corners elsewhere by using a purchased pound cake rather than making the traditional trifle sponge. The pound cake holds up much better than sponge cake if preparing the trifle a day or two ahead. Save the whipped cream and decorative garnishes for the day of your dinner party for a clean and pristine presentation at the table. Use a long-handled spoon to serve and dig down so each guest receives every delectable layer!


The Custard:


2 1/2 cups whole milk

1 bay leaf

zest of 1/2 a lemon, white pith removed

6 egg yolks, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

4 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla extract

one 16-ounce frozen or store-baked pound cake, cut into ½-inch thick slices

two 10-ounce packages frozen raspberries in syrup, thawed, drained, and syrup reserved

1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar

3/4 cup raspberry preserves

1 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

1/3 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

1 cup fresh raspberries


1. To prepare the custard, heat the milk, bay leaf and lemon rind in a medium-size stainless steel pot to just under a boil. Set aside for 5 minutes, then remove the bay leaf and lemon zest with a slotted spoon.

2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until smooth and ribbony, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in half the hot milk, then pour the egg mixture back into the pot and bring to a very low boil over medium heat, whisking constantly until the custard thickens. Immediately pour through a strainer into a clean mixing bowl and stir in the vanilla. Cover the surface with plastic wrap (to prevent a skin from forming), poke a few holes to vent and allow to cool to room temperature.

3. In a small bowl combine all but 1 tablespoon of the raspberry syrup with the vinegar. In another small bowl whisk together the remaining syrup and the raspberry preserves.

4. Begin assembling the trifle by placing the cake slices, cut to fit, on the bottom of the bowl. Brush lightly with the syrup-vinegar mixture and spread 1/3 of the preserve mixture over the slices. Sprinkle 1/3 of the defrosted raspberries over and pour 1/3 of the custard on top. Be sure each addition is touching the sides of the trifle bowl so that the layers are visible and attractive. Repeat layering twice more, ending with the custard. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least overnight.

5. To finish the trifle, whip the cream with the confectioner’s sugar to soft peaks. Spread evenly over the custard, and sprinkle the almonds and fresh raspberries decoratively on top. Return to chill until ready to serve.


Note: Almonds can be toasted quickly in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat. Shake the pan frequently and toast until the edges are lightly golden.


Easy Does It: In a pinch you could replace the homemade custard with a vanilla pudding or custard mix or a tub of prepared vanilla pudding (about 4 cups will be needed). Thin with 1/2 cup of cream to improve the consistency.